Clean Slate - What to do?

Derrick111(7)August 29, 2012

Hi, I bought a house that had absolutely no landscaping... clean slate! I need some help with a design that will incorporate the two Nelly Stevens that I planted last year. I don't know what to do with the rest of the space. I am interested in using things that are evergreen so that things still look nice and have structure in the cold parts of the year. Whenever possible, I am also interested in things that might have some sort of interest (ie: a holly bush has berries in the winter as opposed to just some plain old boxwood) but neither are requirements. This is a picture of the front with the two Nelly Stevens I planted (the hollies are mature pics I superimposed to the photo to show what they will become). That is a driveway and carport to the far right. Any design ideas would be great!

Thanks!!

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Derrick111(7)

Here is a pic that gives a better perspective and shows the size of the Hollies currently (about 6ft tall).

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 10:57PM
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tanowicki

Where's the front door? It almost looks like we're looking at a picture of the back of the house.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 9:26AM
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yardvaark

Derrick, where zone 7 are you?

Because of the large amount of white space, the lower left portion of the house seems uninteresting. The slope that crosses the front of the house adds a sense of instability to the picture. I'd consider connecting the two Nellies with a hedge that covers up to the lower half of the white space, but doesn't get any taller, and then keep the hedge trimmed level to compensate for the slope, i.e., provide a level base. You'd need to decide how important it is to have light coming in the foundation window. If needed, you could bump the hedge out in the direction toward the street and allow a gap behind it for light to reach the window. Or, you could break the hedge and leave the window un-planted. You could continue the hedge, but with a lower growing plant material below the bay window. For all hedging, you would need to determine if you wanted a clipped hedge or a loose, natural hedge. (Often the clipped is the easier to "calculate" and maintain.) If you prefer loose, you'd need to be more careful about selecting a plant material that well fits the height requirements and probably adapt the maintenance to a single, hard, annual pruning (along the lines of pollarding.)

Since the carport IS the entrance to the home, it would be nice to put some seasonal color by the driveway. The hedge below the bay window could be flanked, as much or little as desired with an annual, or perennial & annual arrangement. It would be helpful to link all the plantings with a groundcover in front that extends all the way to the hedge at the left property line. Also, I could see continuing the season color planting scheme to the right side of the driveway to add interest to the "entrance." (It's easy to envision a long term property improvement plan that would call for widening both the carport and drive to accommodate two cars side-by-side.)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 9:53AM
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Derrick111(7)

Thanks, I'm 12 miles north west of DC in MD! I do prefer the loose, natural look to whatever I end up with. I plan on planting flowers, color, etc. layered with and in front of, whatever shrubs, trees, etc. that I end up using as the foundational backdrop. I like your vision to extend it to the left most hedge and maybe do it on the other side of the carport as well.
I think the two things I need assistance with is design help, and more importantly... picking actual pieces since I am not experienced with all that is available or the factors that make each a good or bad choice for me to plant. See below for a simple idea I tried (sans flowers and layers in front). I scaled the sizes the best I could to reality. The idea uses a camellia in the middle and two Blue Princess hollies under the bay window. I also put an Azalea (or was thinking of a Nandina) to the left of the foundation window. But this is just a sketched idea. I've since been told that the Blue Princess grows super slow and sounds like it requires a lot of maintenance, along with needing a male for berries so I need something else under the bay windows!
I cannot extend the carport since the edge of the picture is the beginning of the neighbors' house so there really is not a great deal of room there. I wanted to plant a small Dogwood near the corner of the carport, but I think it will be too big since they grow 15 to 25 feet.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 6:12PM
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yardvaark

One thing about your proposal that jumps out at me as less than ideal is leaving the largest blank space on the house at the left--downhill--end. Normally, when I see Camellias they seem to run taller than wide, so I'd consider putting the Camellia where you now have the azalea. I think I'd either make both of them be Camellias (and just adjust their trimming for the space/location) or put the shorter of the plants (but hopefully not too much shorter) at the right of foundation window. I don't know if you're trying to keep it sedate, but white-flowering shrubs in front of a white house seems underwhelming. I'd pick colored flowers but with a uniform theme (if they bloom at the same time) for continuity. I think the Nandina could work well instead of azaleas insofar as being "loose" colorful and low maintenance. I'm showing a bed line for groundcover and how you could group annuals and perennials. Either category could be in either position so long as you place the taller material at the back. Or the groundcover could extend all the way to the drive area. Whatever you plant below the bay window, make sure it stays trimmed below. They don't necessarily need to touch the window. There could be some space below.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 8:30PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

tanowicki's question needs an answer - where the heck is the front door?!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 1:00PM
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duluthinbloomz4

Architecture is a bit strange, but the "front" door is clearly in the carport. Wonder if the carport was a late add on and what we're looking at is an original side of the house now facing the street - especially if this house is of somewhat earlier vintage than others in the surrounding neighborhood.

White against white makes for a kind of blah color scheme. I do like azaleas - I had a variety called "Fashion" when I lived in Metro DC. Was a brilliant salmon color with purple spots in the throat... a nice change from the usual lavender or red or white that everyone seems to have. Showy for the time that azaleas are showy, then simply a nice plant.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 2:25PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Yes, one must assume the front door is in the carport... I would also assume that it would be then desirable to draw more attention to that area in some way - perhaps through colorful or unusual plantings (rather than dull evergreens) and/or hardscaping or ornamentation of some sort.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 3:12PM
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duluthinbloomz4

Should be something under the bow window - not flush against the foundation as there is a vent of some type there.

I'm doing something I've always disliked on some threads that have appeared on LD over the years - concentrating on what might be impossible physical changes to the house rather than on anything to do with questions about landscaping.

That being said - the black & white checkerboard square painting of the shutters on unusual windows kind of smacks one in the face calling attention to too small windows and a lot of siding. Now if the left side had a matching bow... Which in turn does nothing to highlight the door.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 3:39PM
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Derrick111(7)

Yes, the entry door is in the carport. All these homes were designed that way (the 50s were full of strange ideas).

Shutters are not painted on, and I have no plans to change windows ;-)

I plan to add color with layers of annuals and perennials in front of all this.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 8:50PM
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Derrick111(7)

OK, I went with two Dwarf Buford hollies in front of the bay window and I put one Camellia to the right of the foundation window. I won't have enough room for a second Camellia (to the right of the foundation window)... there will only be about two feet, so I will need to plant something else. The only idea I had so far was a Nandina, but there might be a better choice.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 11:39AM
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duluthinbloomz4

Dwarf Burfords are nice - two will be a great plenty under the window as they do grow well and will grow together. Eventually you'll be doing some pruning. They do have a sharp spine at the apex of the leaf so don't walk barefoot!

I know the shutters aren't painted on - my thought was for the next time the house needs painting (or if you just feel like getting up on a ladder), paint the whole shutter a color instead of just outlining the frames and cross bars.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 12:12PM
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yardvaark

You've picked hollies that have a desire to be small trees. I would not use them in that very short space. That's more like a Dwarf yaupon or Shillings holly kind of space. Or use something from an entirely different plant family. "Dwarf" does not necessarily mean small. It means smaller than the full size and if the full size is 30' height, the dwarf might be 15'.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 7:25PM
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Derrick111(7)

The Dwarf Buford hollies are supposed to grow up to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. My space under the bay window is 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide. I figure two should fit under there OK with minimal pruning once mature... you disagree?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 12:45AM
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yardvaark

You must take the "claimed" sizes with a grain of salt. Many nurseries claim smaller sizes because they know that's what people want to hear. It's been pervasive in the industry for decades. Probably forever. A good rule of thumb can be to double whatever size they claim, but it's hit or miss as a few nurseries get a lot closer to the real size. Another thing is that plants don't just get to a certain size and stop growing, and they grow at different rates due to cultural conditions, so it's hard to pin down a specific ultimate size. As one example, if you look up Carissa Holly, they say 3'-4' ht. My mom had a Carissa Holly hedge I recently took out because I was sick to death of trimming and tending it. When she bought the property is was over 5' ht and that was with regular trimming. It was established so it grew about 2' a year if I let it. And when it got away from me it was a tough job to cut it back as the stems were nearly an inch thick. As a trimmed hedge it had the worst habit of reverting to Chinese Holly from the roots... which was the clincher that warranted its execution.

Below are pictures of dwarf Burford as tree and shrub. One other thing... if the height to the window bottom is 4', you really don't want a plant that gets 4' tall. You need to allow some clearance so a shrub that is a few inches or foot less than your space is better. I'd shoot for 3' knowing that, eventually, it'll get bigger. Dwarf Yaupon or Schillings Holly or low growing azaleas would be easier to live with. (Don't evaluate the look of dwarf yaupon in the pot. It looks better in the ground.) Maybe someone else could come up with a more exotic recommendation if that's what you need.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 1:49AM
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duluthinbloomz4

I'm only going to say one thing and then Yard can take over the forum with his usual view on things. :-)

I've had experience with dwarf Burfords. They can be kept to pretty much the size you need them to be with a relatively small amount of annual work... with either a bypass pruner or electric hedge trimmer. Yes, plants grow, but a couple of Burfords need not become the two examples shown.

And in Maryland - Burfords were common and quite an inexpensive investment. For a long time they'll look a lot better than a raggedy scattering of perennials outlined with liriope.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 9:45AM
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Derrick111(7)

I appreciate this guys. Well, I did compare what the nursery said with what the tag from the grower said with what I researched on the internet. I do hope that this was a good choice but they are planted now so I can only find out in about 5 or so years (or however long it takes them to mature from about 1 foot as they are now).

I chose them based on the findings above and because they self pollinate to bring beautiful berries along with the great looking leaves. If anyone has a better suggestion, I am all ears in case I do need to transplant them due to size once I find out what they do when mature.

Thanks again guys!!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 10:41AM
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yardvaark

Duluth, you have your own usual views, too, but you don't always seem interested in sharing the reasoning behind them. Perceiving views different from one's own as "taking over" probably has more to do with perception. :-)

There are various philosophies regarding what's good and what's not. A yard demands plenty of maintenance without asking for extra. Even though it can be done otherwise, one of my beliefs is to use plants whose expected natural size fits the allotted space so the maintenance is lower.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:13PM
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